Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Sunday, February 03, 2019

Decapitated e-scooter in San Francisco

This was in my Flickr feed...

20181119 skip-scooter-decapitated

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At 10:08 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

from FT:


basically BIRD is making back the price of the scooter (in profit) in 3 months. Demand is amazing.

Unfortunately lifespan of the scooter is 1 month.

(My guesstimate was 3 months for lifespan).

Very large marketplace for stolen scooter parts now online. They are not able to deal with salt and corrosion but if they are lasting a month who cares.

At 11:13 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Thanks for these. Hadn't seen them. Will read...

There is an article in last week's FT about Ofo and it made some good points about VC fueled businesses, but not good evaluation of the business model.

Saw a piece on Bird on TechCrunch but it didn't have these hard numbers. They are positioning the introduction of crappy scooters as proof of concept, and now they are upgrading the vehicle. Said they still make money in the winter. But who knows.

I keep thinking the problem with non-car mobility in the US is the "crossing the chasm" issue (Geoffrey Moore's updating of Rogers' diffusion curve, in terms of "how do you get through the big long trough between early adopters and late adopters," the latter phase being where you start to see real take up of significance. (I would argue you won't ever see it, but hopefully I am wrong. ... I'm sure you saw the stuff on Chariot.)

At 12:38 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

I think electric scooters are almost there, in terms of non-car mobility.

But unlike bikes, scooters make more sense as owners, not rentals.

I'd love an electric bike. I don't have a place to store it securely, don't want it inside my apartment, and don't want a $2000+ bike stolen.

Scooter is $500, much easier to store.

You can't make a scooter cheap enough that it makes economic sense to rent it and use it intensely. A $2000 scooter starts to look like a vespa, of which there are a lot of rentals in europe.

At 12:53 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I agree with you about the economics, but it isn't about the economics that I am referring to.

For people in the US, even in cities like DC, where sustainable modes are favored, particularly in the core, outside of transit and of course, at least short trip walking, the penetration rates for biking and other micromobility modes is relatively paltry.

You are always in the core, unlike me. Are you seeing scads of scooter riders?

It's a shame I can't remember the exact cite, but I read an article that said the average total number of rides per scooter user in one of the systems was 5.

That's 5 total.

Not 5/day or 5/week.

That's not regular use.

Granted there is a subset of power users.

The trick is how do we get many more people to become regular users.

... of course, I think we agree that one way is to actively promote it, along the lines of the proposed Lime mobility store in Santa Monica, xfinity, the new Capitol One bank branches (although it seems the Chase branches have similar features although not cafes), etc.

I realize I need to get up to Bethesda and check out that Goodyear Roll store...

plus there are probably other methods out there that could work for more secure locking, etc. ... e.g., I bet there is a way to build into them a retractable hook that could lock into bike share dock systems.

At 7:10 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

In the core, I see a lot of scooter use.

Down during the winter, but I'd say as much as capital bikeshare.

There is a reason why Uber/Lyft is throwing money at this -- they see people switching over.

In terms of your rough metric on use -- 5 -- actually that is in the realm of what I was throwing out -- that scooters have a week long life as a rental.

I suspect the number is higher in DC and better markets -- as a said each scooter is pulling in around 400 in 3 week, let say 100 to make it easy.

That is about $14 a day, which is in the range of 5-7 rides a day.

Scooter with no battery back might go up to 15 miles, maybe good for 5 rides. With a battery back you might get 8 or 9.

That is DC. Weaker markets I can see the scooter being used once a day, and then broken/stolen by end of week.

At 11:57 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Urgh. Very very good point about differentiating between strong and weak markets. Obviously, the place where they'll be stronger is in warm climes and in cities with a good "sustainable mobility platform."

In a private email thread, a guy with an ex-colleague in Seattle says that he doesn't see a lot of scooter use there.

I can see that. Seattle isn't set up like DC with a strong core. Sure there's a downtown, but the city is pretty spread out on a north-south axis + West Seattle.

By contrast, DC is concentrated with both housing and office districts in the L'Enfant City section, easily 280,000 residents (W1, 2, 6) + a serious increase in the daytime population M-F, supported by transit and a walkable urban form.

Interestingly, in that interview with the Bird CEO, they are ceding small markets to small business operators who buy (rent probably) the platform and buy the equipment.

There was another article I read about a firm called Superpedestrian that aims to have a sellable operating platform (a similar product is also available in car sharing) + they are designing a more robust scooter. Although I don't think they'll make all that much headway, unless one of the major firms adopts it. Soon enough the copycat firms will fall off the market like Ofo, Mobike, etc.

At 11:02 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

I read that Bird program as regulatory arbitrage -- that way you can have more than 250 scooters (or whatever the limit per company).

Lime just did a $310M funding raise yesterday, shows what I know....

You could probably build a more robust scooter -- lets say cost is $1000. Basically same battery limits --say 10 rides a day. Maybe make the batteries hot swappable. Big cost in doing that but your service platform can do it.

So lets do 20 rides a day. $5 a ride, $100 a day. Lets say $700 a week, that is $21000 a month and then your recycle the scooter. Actually those costs might work out.

At 2:26 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

The study in Portland found what, the average ride was 1.6 miles or was it 1.3 miles? That's maybe 8 minutes total, $1.20 + the $1 base fee (although some companies like Jump don't charge the base fee).

20 rides at 2.50 and that's still double the number of rides that is typical.

10 rides at 2.50 is still high maybe. Still you could make money... where it's better for the ride hailing firms is the total revenue per user, figuring they get the other rides too.

Especially if you do UberEats once or more per week...

At 6:12 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

your assumptions on price are probably more correct - I went back and looked at my limited rental history.

at $14 day (my assumption on revenue rate on current scooter) that is maybe 7 rides. 14 miles. Possible with upgraded battery packs.

at superscooter (20 rides) that is 280/w, payback in a about a month which is pretty good.

I noticed a skip scooter with anti-theft deterrents placed on the battery pack. They are selling for about $75 on ebay, retail is 200.

At 11:12 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

At 8:49 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

wow. Except that I am straight edge when it comes to drugs, I want what he's on.

No way.

A car is completely different from a scooter. In so many ways. Completely enclosed for occupants vis a vis the elements ("a motorized umbrella"), can be used on trips of any length, including thousands of miles. Can carry more than one person (legally). Can carry goods. Etc.

Scooters are likely limited to about a 2 mile trip, for one person, not much in the way of cargo capacity, most likely to be used only when the weather is favorable.

I haven't written about it yet, but there is an article on AVs in Catalyst, the newsletter for the UMN Center for Transpo Studies on costs per mile for cars.

58 cents for owner
$2 for ride hailing with driver

Estimated cost for AV without driver acting like a taxi:

$1 per mile.

So it's about repricing upward/premiumization.

They say, what, the average number of miles driven per year is 12000, that's $12,000 as opposed to $5800.

There is all the slack time, etc.

+ of course in urban areas and there aren't that many that truly qualify, like DC, NYC, etc. the average person doesn't drive that much, uses transit, so it probably pencils out to use AVs as opposed to owning a car.

It's like the difference between universal health care and our insurance system and how it adds more than 25% to costs for administration and profits.

AVs are Henry Ford like, at least in some ways. Not scooters, not Bird.

Again, think of Uber

ridehailing + uber pool + Jump e-bike + Jump scooter + UberEats.

... as we've discussed it's about the platform

and actually, the apps that Uber/Lyft created are really the Henry Ford moment for personal transit. It took away the biggest pain element in getting a taxi, f*ing finding one. Now it's all automated. And it took away the second biggest pain element, paying for it at the end of the trip. Now it's all automated.

And the app makes this something you can use anywhere, it's cross-market, unlike sticking your arm out in DC vs. NYC vs. St. Paul, Minnesota, etc.

It's awesome for the user (I don't use it but that's another story) because they don't have to think about it.

It's awesome for Uber because they charge extra-normal commissions to the driver on the rides, to the restaurant for UberEats.

But it's not so great for the contractors. Although I did see an article somewhere about a driver in NYC who doesn't do that badly, although yes, he has to arbitrage for surge pricing to get his revenue up.

At 3:24 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

came across this via pinterest

At 11:08 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

A lot of links here --- I am dragging out this thread.

On AV:

Not sure on the cite on your AV, but the ones I saw basically says that we are underestimating deprivation on AV. If AV goes to a ride share model, you are looking are more intensive use and faster depreciation.

Also a 10 year old AV car will have much worse tech than a new one.

And electric cars have different curves as well -- yes the motor is fine but you might need a new $5000 battery back after 10 years.

So yes I see AV are more expensive than predicted.

on scooter:

Let's be honest on what is really going on -- this is a race to monopoly.

On PP:

Yes granting a monopoly is basically a 19th century public private partnership.

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